After school let out Monday, students of Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts gathered outside by a Pegasus sculpture to lay flowers and share memories of one of their classmates, 16-year-old junior Grace Loncar, who died by suicide Saturday.
An obituary released yesterday on the website of Sparkman/Hillcrest Funeral Home, where the funeral will be held Friday, confirmed the cause of death.
"Unfortunately, Grace suffered from the often underestimated and misunderstood disease of depression," the obituary reads. "From the time she was diagnosed at age 11, until her death, she struggled. She would tell her family that she could never feel anything. She couldn't feel all the love from everyone around her. Most tragically, she couldn't even feel the love for herself."
The obituary also shares Loncar's talent at winning money at card games, her habit of offering Uber drivers big tips for sharing an exciting personal story, and her decision to diverge from her five siblings — who attended Highland Park High School — to join Booker T.'s theater cluster.
Loncar also acted outside of school, most frequently in productions at the Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, which was started by her mother, Sue, 14 years ago. (Her father is personal injury attorney Brian Loncar.) The theater closed its final production, As We Lie Still, earlier this month.
Miki Bone, managing director of the theater, took to Facebook on Sunday evening to share the news of Loncar's death. Since that time, actors and people who work at local theater companies and institutions including Proper Hijinx, WaterTower Theatre and Contemporary Theatre of Dallas have joined in expressing their shock and grief on social media.
"She was s 16 yr old with a glorious soprano voice, a face like Brigitte Bardot, a speaking voice from the center of the earth, and the excitement of a giggling 4 yr old, coupled with the manner of an all-business 40 yr old," wrote Margaret Wilkerson, founder of the Musical Theater Institute in Farmers Branch, on Facebook on Monday afternoon. "She was a joy at our theatre camps, a favorite of all, and her genuine delight in the other kids ... meant the world."
But Loncar's Twitter account, @graceloncar, reveals the darker side to the teenager who struggled with depression.
In tweets over the last year, Loncar discussed death, suicide, sex, drugs and mental illness, although many are written in a humorous tone and there are no explicit threats of self-harm. Out of context they could be interpreted as the writing of a teenager with a sophisticated and morbid sense of humor coping with the ordinary pitfalls of adolescence.
Loncar's death is not the first loss that the Booker T. Washington community has suffered this year, or even over the last week. An alumna who was in her first year at the University of Missouri, Dariana Marie Byone, died on Thanksgiving Day. And Antonio Lamar Cochran is still awaiting sentencing for the abduction and murder of 18-year-old Booker T. grad Zoe Hastings last fall.
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Robyn Harris, the news and information specialist at Booker T., says that psychological and counseling services have been extended to students, as they always are in the case of a traumatic event, whether that means the death of a student or a family member or friend outside of school.
"Over Thanksgiving break we did lose two students from this campus," she says. "If there’s a need to extend those services beyond the first day or two while the students are returning back to their peers [we will]. Right now the entire school is working to push through this difficult moment, as they’ve lost two students who are connected to the Booker T. community."
There will be an open viewing for Loncar from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Sparkman/Hillcrest Funeral Home, 7405 W. Northwest Highway. The funeral service will be held at 1 p.m. the following Friday at Munger Place Church, 5200 Bryan St. The family has requested that attendees wear pink, Loncar's favorite color.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.